|The Ateneo Lady Eagles celebrate after scoring against the FEU Lady Tamaraws in their UAAP Season 76 women's volleyball game. Photo by Mark Cristino for ABS-CBNnews.com
MANILA, Philippines – (UPDATED) The Ateneo Lady Eagles notched their 10th win of the season in impressive fashion, sweeping the Far Eastern University (FEU) Lady Tamaraws in straight sets in their second-round encounter of the UAAP Season 76 women’s volleyball tournament.
Alyssa Valdez and rookie Michelle Morente led the way in Ateneo’s 25-17, 25-19, and 25-16 victory Sunday at the Arena in San Juan for their fourth consecutive victory.
With the win, Ateneo wrapped up their elimination round campaign with a 10-4 win-loss record, and have long secured the third seed in the Final Four.
FEU, meanwhile, dropped to 6-8, tied with the Adamson Lady Falcons in the league standings. They will figure in a playoff match for the last spot in the Final Four on Wednesday.
“Sa start pa lang ng season, sinabi na namin na walang expectations dahil rebuilding team kami,” said reigning Best Scorer Alyssa Valdez of Ateneo. “Ine-enjoy lang namin ang bawat game, at nagkakaroon pa lang kami ng chemistry.”
In the opening set, Ateneo pulled away from FEU after the second technical timeout, turning a 15-16 deficit into a 25-17 victory with a fiery 10-1 run anchored on service aces by Ella de Jesus and Morente.
As a team, the Lady Eagles had seven service aces in the opening set alone, while for the Lady Tamaraws, the receiving errors would become a recurring problem as they were never able to consistently get a good first ball all throughout the match.
The second set was close up until the second technical timeout, but this time it was a host of FEU hitting errors that allowed Ateneo to start pulling away. The Lady Eagles were only ahead, 17-15, when FEU rookie Bernadeth Pons committed back-to-back hitting errors to give Ateneo free points.
Ateneo gave FEU some hope in the second set when Valdez uncharacteristically committed a service error, part of seven unforced errors for the Lady Eagles in the frame. But Kim Gequillana gave them a huge boost off the bench, as she got back-to-back service aces that made it 23-17.
FEU’s receiving continued to become a problem in the third set, as Valdez, de Jesus, and Aerieal Patnongon all got easy points from the service line. With no good first ball coming, setter Gyzelle Sy was rarely able to run good plays for the Lady Tamaraws.
Ateneo again pulled away after the second technical timeout, with back-to-back aces by Patnongon keying a 4-0 blast that turned a 15-14 lead into a 19-14 advantage, and FEU never recovered.
Valdez, gunning for her second consecutive Best Scorer award, scored 21 points, while Morente matched her career high with 14 markers. Even libero Jia Morado got into the scoring act, getting five points while surprising FEU several times with her drop balls from the second touch.
No one scored in double digits for the Lady Tamaraws, with Samantha Dawson scoring nine points. The rookie Pons, their leading scorer, had an off day, scoring only four points and spending most of the third set on the bench.
As a team, Ateneo had 38 attack points, while FEU only had 23. The Lady Eagles also had 14 service aces to only two for the Lady Tamaraws.
Ateneo will now wait the winner of the FEU-Adamson playoff match in the Final Four. The semi-finals of the UAAP women’s volleyball tournament will be done in a step-ladder format this year after defending champions De La Salle swept the elimination round yesterday, giving them an outright Finals berth along with a thrice-to-beat advantage.